Time and time again, I have reinvented myself.
My professional trades have included: research specialist, HR consultant, web developer, fashion designer, seamstress, and today… an IT product director. You may ask, what do all these jobs have in common?
Through every professional iteration, every new way to gain expertise and earn money and help others, I have remained the same person with the same strengths. I am an acute listener and devout life learner with a high level of conscientiousness, integrity, and excellence.
Now hold on. Let’s back up a few steps.
I didn’t always know these were my strengths. For most of my life, I identified with my weaknesses: socially awkward, occasionally brash and clumsy with my words. This mediocre self-image naturally led to mediocre life choices.
I went to graduate school for HR, and about six months in I knew it wasn’t for me. But I said I’d do it, so I was going to do it! I struggled through the next year and a half, plugging away at my studies and applying to entry-level jobs in HR.
I was miserable in my first job, absolutely miserable. I found myself wondering where I had gone wrong. What could I possibly do to change the path I had decided on years before I even knew what I really wanted to do with my life?
Enter now: the most important lesson of my life. The lesson I am here to share with you today. You are not who your past says you are, you are who you choose to be.
I realized I didn’t have to be stuck in jobs I hated simply because I had chosen a degree that I now regretted. I realized I didn’t have to be a mediocre person.
I began to identify my introversion as a strength: it’s an ability to communicate with true substance. I recognized my perfectionism as an ability to earn respect by demanding higher standards of others and myself. As I expanded my self-view, I also expanded my notions of what work meant. I chose to live a life of my own design, doing things that made me happy and furthered my purpose in life.
The mental shackles were gone, but the financial realities remained. I had bills to pay.
Not one to be stopped by circumstances, I took on learning new things and exploring my passions while working at jobs that could pay my rent. Once I was calibrated and knew what I wanted, it was OK to spend 8+ hours a day doing work I didn’t enjoy. I made the best of it by making new friends at work, taking on new tasks, and practicing mental resilience… and reminding myself that there are 24 hours in the day.
During slow times at work, I read books and articles, blogs and papers. I packed my day with exciting new ventures: my mornings before work were used to research and try out new skills, and after work, I’d pick up where I left off.
I learned things I never would have in a world where I worked at a 9-5 job every day, then came home and watched TV with a glass of wine. Eventually I was able to land new jobs, explore new fields. It was amazing (and continues to be). I have never been more fulfilled or more happy with my life. Right now, I am in a job that I chose based on my passions and interests, not my degree or professional history. I work with people I enjoy, I make a difference, and I am valued for my contributions.
While I am proud of what I accomplished, I feel I could do more with my experiences than simply reap the benefits.
Earlier this month I embarked on a new mission, a mission to help other women realize they are not who the past says they are. Women who are stuck in jobs that fit their degree and professional experience instead of their true passions. Women who are restless, who know they could do so much more with their lives.
Does this sound like you?
This article is an open letter to women like you, an invitation to take on your life. Recognize your current job as a necessary piece of the big picture: it pays your bills while you lay the foundation for finding a job you really love. Download my 3-Step Guide on how to make the most of your current job so you can forge a new career path doing what you really want to do (without suffering 8+ hours a day, 5x a week in the meantime).
Because you aren’t what your past says you should be. You choose your life, your next adventure.
(Photo by Josue Martinez)